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Lessons from history: colonial foundations of criminal justice in Victoria

May 16 @ 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm

$10 – $20

We are delighted that The Hon Justice Chris Maxwell AC will deliver the Society’s inaugural Paul Mullaly History and Law Lecture during Law Week 2023.

This lecture will explore the value of legal history, both as a window into social and political history and as an aid to understanding the present state of the law. By way of illustration, the lecture will highlight key aspects of criminal justice in colonial Victoria – jury trials, the role of the trial judge, and early ideas about proof and punishment – drawing on Paul Mullaly’s foundational work ‘Crime in the Port Phillip District 1835-51’.

The Royal Historical Society of Victoria was much saddened at the death of long-serving member, His Honour Paul Mullaly QC, in 2022 just shy of his 93rd birthday. Paul contributed substantially to the RHSV over many years and in many ways however his greatest contribution has been his transcription and annotation of Judge Willis’ Port Phillip Casebooks, for which legal scholars will always be in his debt. Paul’s work can be found on a mini-website within the RHSV website here: The Judge Willis Casebooks . To honour Paul’s contribution we have established this biennial lecture on history and law in our Distinguished Lecturer series.

The Hon Chris Maxwell has been a highly respected Justice especially known for his advocacy for individual rights. Maxwell initially studied at The University of Melbourne then, after receiving a Rhodes Scholarship, Maxwell went to the University of Oxford and then graduated in law. He was admitted to the Bar as a member of Lincoln’s Inn in 1978. Maxwell returned to Melbourne the following year and was admitted to the Victorian Bar in 1984.

In 1981 he interrupted his legal career to take up an appointment as Principal Private Secretary to Senator Gareth Evans, then Commonwealth Attorney-General. He practised in constitutional and administrative law and in revenue law.  In 1994, Justice Chris Maxwell was counsel assisting the Judicial Inquiry into the Australian Secret Intelligence Service.

He was appointed a Queen’s Counsel in 1998. A champion for the rights of the individual, Maxwell was Legal Aid Commissioner for seven years. He was President of Liberty Victoria, for which he appeared pro bono as Counsel in the Tampa case to argue that the Commonwealth had unlawfully detained those rescued on the Norwegian container ship.

In 2003–04, Justice Maxwell undertook a review for the Victorian Government of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 1985.  The recommendations of that review were implemented in the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004.

In 2005 Maxwell was appointed the second President of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria. He retired, after serving 17 years as President, in 2022.

In June 2015, he was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

From 5:30pm – 6pm the RHSV serves refreshments before the lecture commences at 6pm. Zoom audiences will join at 6pm. Zoom log-in details will be sent to attendees 24 hours prior to the lecture.
Photo caption: The Chris Maxwell delivering the 2019 Victoria Law Foundation Oration. Courtesy of the Victoria Law Foundation.


May 16
5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
$10 – $20
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Royal Historical Society of Victoria
03 9326 9288


RHSV Gallery Downstairs
239 A'Beckett St
Melbourne, Victoria 3000 Australia
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03 9326 9288